Top drops under $20 (and over) and wine news from Joelle Thomson

Category: Cabernet Sauvignon (page 1 of 2)

Top drop over $20… wine from a war zone

Wine from a war zone… tasting at Regional Wines & Spirits

5 September 2017

A fascinating wine from Lebanon – 2011 Hochar Pere et Fils

4 stars

Tastes like a cross between Nebbiolo and Chateauneuf du Pape, to me; high acid, firm tannins, red fruit, juicy long finish… succulent, bone dry, complex. This six year old wine has a complex range of flavours spanning red fruit (classic juicy flavours of a Chateauneuf du Pape), spice (cloves, cardamon) and black fruit (Cabernet Sauvignon). It has a medium body and high but balanced acidity adds freshness and length. Intriguing wine.

It’s a blend of Cinsault,Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache.

Top drop… Wine of the week(end)… d’Arenberg

Hand made takes on new meaning at d’Arenberg in McLaren Vale…

2014 d’Arenberg The High Trellis Cabernet Sauvignon $21-$24

Winemaker Toby Porter once told me he sometimes wished winemaking was easier, quickly adding that the rewards always outweigh the painstaking, time consuming, hands on work. His job is certainly not an easy one. A winemaker at the well known family owned winery, d’Arenberg in McLaren Vale, South Australia, he is incredibly hands-on – every single wine made there is produced not in a modern press but in a basket press. That’s no mean feat when production is relatively high, prices are relatively low and quality is uniformly above par – if you had to name a great Australian GSM (Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre blend) that’s worth beating a path to and possible to find without too much hassle, d’Arenberg it is. But this winery makes a wide range of wines and this deeply coloured Cabernet Sauvignon is so concentrated in fruit flavour, notes of cedar and oak nicely integrated into its impressive big bodied style that it’s remarkable to find it so accessibly priced.

My role… 

There’s something indulgent in talking about someone else’s hard work as a ‘wine of the week(end)’ but… someone has to do it and it’s a privilege not lost on yours truly.

Thanks to…

Toby and the d’Arenberg team for an insightful conversation over lunch in Wellington over a year ago now. And thanks to Negociants NZ for importing these exceptional wines to New Zealand.


Craggy’s new top shelf reds launch…

It was frosty, clear, cold and intense start to the week at Craggy Range in Hawke’s Bay, but in the upstairs wine lab at Craggy Range, the following trio of reds shined a warmer light on the third strong New Zealand vintage in a row – 2015. Like all top shelf reds, this trio have been mellowing in barrel prior to their official release onto shop shelves and into our glasses this week.

Craggy’s top trio of 2015 reds

Craggy Range’s new Prestige Collection reds launched in June this year and represents the third consecutive strong vintage in a row, says winemaker Matt Stafford, who says yields were down 50% for 2015 Craggy Range Aroha Te Muna Pinot Noir and also, to a lesser extent, for 2015 Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah, due to a cool start to vintage but a warm dry summer resulted in these beauties.

New Craggy Sophia

 2015 Craggy Range Sophia $115

Three grapes vie for attention in this top new red – made from 73% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon and 13% Cabernet Franc, all contributing body and fruit weight. The soft richness comes from the hefty Merlot component while the two Cabernets provide dark fruity notes.

The 2015 Craggy Range Sophia was aged for 19 months in French oak (45% new).

It drinks… well right now but will further age for 9 to 10 years; possibly longer.


New Le Sol Syrah

2015 Craggy Range Le Sol $135

A cool spring provided plenty of nervous anticipation to the Craggy Range wine team but a warm dry spell in mid to late January saw temperatures rise over 30 degrees Celcius and the result is this lovely wine that’s intense in every way from its deep purple colour to its full body, high but balanced tannins and acidity and its long, smooth finish.

The 2015 Le Sol was aged for 17 months in French oak (30% new oak).

It drinks… well right now and has strong aging potential for 9 to 10 years +.


New Pinot

2015 Craggy Range Aroha Pinot Noir $135

First made in 2006 and produced every year since, with the exception of 2010, this Martinborough Pinot Noir is made 100% from grapes grown in the Te Muna area; 9 kilometres west of the township. A higher proportion of whole bunches are used than in the past – now 50%, which add what Stafford describes as a spicy note. And there has also been a significant reduction in the use of new oak (now at 30%).

The 2015 Aroha was aged for 9 months in French oak (30% new).

It drinks… well now with smooth full body, and can age for 9-10 years.


These wines are in store now at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington where I spend a portion of my week working on tastings and all manner of other fascinating, tasty wine related things.

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